STEAM: One Square Foot Project

March 26, 2018
Written by:
Tasha Swearingen

Do you have kids who are itching to get outside after spending most of the winter months cooped up inside? Spring is the perfect time to teach children about life cycles and plants. It’s also prime time for life science-based STEAM activities. Here, we take a look at a spring STEAM experiment that’s sure to excite your students!

One Square Foot Project

It’s amazing what you can collect together in just one square foot in your backyard! A one square foot project is a fantastic way to explore what you have in your own backyard at various times of day, under different weather conditions, and at different points in the year.  From bugs and leaves to plants and animal droppings, you’ll find that this project teaches you about many things you never even knew were present on your property. To complete this project, gather together string (4 feet/48 inches), scissors, a magnifying glass, a pencil and a piece of paper. If you’d like, you can also bring along a camera and some tape. Packing tape is also good for preserving items in a scrapbook or nature study journal. If it’s a windy day, it might be good to bring some craft sticks to wrap the string around so it stays in place.

Getting Started on Your STEAM Experiment

Find a patch of land in your yard that seems interesting. Look for an area with a variety of foliage or plant life and interesting “features” such as colorful bits, different lengths of foliage (pieces of leaves, bushes, or flowers), or animal droppings. Remember, this project is also “portable,” which means if your own backyard seems boring or isn’t filled with a variety of objects to track, you can carry your materials to the local park or hiking trail. Some other fun spots include the edge of a pond/lake or a relative’s yard. If you will be near water, be sure to bring along a collection jar so you can collect some of the water and examine its contents as well.  

Once you’ve chosen your area, lay out your string. If the day is blustery, push four craft sticks into the ground and then wrap your string around each one in the shape of a square. Then, have at it! 

Exploring the Area

After you’ve blocked off the designated area, lay down in the grass and start examining your findings! Be sure to use your magnifying glass so you can explore objects at a close viewing distance. Once you are satisfied with what you’ve found, sit back up and begin to draw the collection on your drawing paper. If you want, you can use some of the tape to adhere pieces of foliage to the top of your drawing paper so they’ll be in close range when you need to capture details.

What Next?

From here, you have a few things you can do.

You can use craft sticks or dowels to mark the area and come back to re-do the project under different weather conditions. Your same square foot is bound to look vastly different after a heavy rain, for instance, than it does when the weather is dry. It’s also possible that the wind will blow other pieces of foliage into your blocked-off area, creating a whole new look for your square foot project.

Be sure to date your drawing and pictures so you know are showing your area under different conditions and at different times of the year. It’s also possible that your area attracts different types of living things at night time compared to the daytime. The only way to find out is to return after dark (don’t forget your flashlight)!

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Tasha Swearingen

Tasha is a homeschooling mom to 5 and has been homeschooling for 14 years. Currently, her children's ages span from toddler to young adult. Tasha has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Sciences from Florida State University and is working on her MBA through SNHU/Berklee School of Music.